ISSN: 2241-6692

Cinematic Urban Trajectories: Documenting the Shifting Athenian Experience in Greek Road and Travel Films

Vasiliki Petsa


In the present article, I focus on the cinematic documentation of the metropolitan lifeworld in contemporary Greek feature films which posit travel and mobility as central narrative axes. Focusing on filmic texts spanning a broad stylistic gamut, across key socio-political transitions from the 1970s onwards, I will trace the diverse spatio-temporal modalities structuring the visual encoding of the Athenian topos. In explicating the various ideologically invested and historically marked cinematic renderings of urban space in these visual narratives, I will draw primarily on Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the “chronotope” and its theoretical elaborations and reworkings. This will allow me on the one hand to link the temporal and spatial elements comprising the social mappings of the city within each film, and on the other to sketch out the connections between the real and the reconstructed time-space configurations of the Athenian microcosm. My analytical endeavour will be underpinned by a series of signifying oppositions (center/periphery, exterior/interior, public/private, centrality/marginality, inclusion/exclusion, etc.), which will be shown to define the narrative construction of Athens as a manifold, hierarchically structured, lived and observed space in Greek films which foreground the chronotopic motif of the “road”. Articulated around mobility and location shooting, and predicated on realist aesthetics, Greek “urban road films” will be shown to enact complex visual negotiations between actual and imagined space, registering the mutations in the physical and symbolically constructed Athenian topography during the recent decades.

Keywords: Chronotope, travel and mobility, urban films, location shooting, realist aesthetics